Category Archives: Whatever

2013 Resolutions

Most of my 2013 Resolutions may end up being the same as my 2012 Resolutions, most of which did not come to pass for a number of reasons, unfortunately.

The two big expenditures I had planned were: laser eye surgery, which I did list on my 2012 Resolutions, and getting a new living room furniture suite, which I did not. My girlfriend has been in support of the laser eye surgery up until this year when she was suddenly very much against it, citing long-term studies just coming out saying it "doesn’t take" in many or most cases. I don’t know. I’d still like to do something though. Eyeglasses suck, and that’s the best thing anyone can say about them. The big derailment came from having to replace my HVAC system unexpectedly, which cost me just over $5,000 and put my personal spending on hold.

Real Life Resolutions:

  • Get my résumé updated and apply for jobs. Looks like 2012 will be the next big pilot hiring boom, and I would like to be caught in that particular explosion. :)
  • Finances. Other than a few minor tweaks to my 401(k) I still have no idea what I’m doing with investing, stocks, or anything else. I may end up needing someone who can teach me face-to-face for this one, or at least get me pointed in the right direction and occasionally shove me when I turn off the path.
  • Alcohols. I still don’t know my wines, though we did go to a wine tasting at a local winery in St. Augustine and I brought back several bottles that I enjoyed. I’ve learned to appreciate a couple Malbecs but haven’t bothered to memorize which ones. I read that one Malbec is just as enjoyable as the next, but in practice that simply has not been the case. My girlfriend had been on a Merlot kick for a few years but now she’s switched to Cabernets and Malbecs. I still prefer vodka in my drinks and earlier this year I did my own grapefruit-infused vodka which was tasty! Bitter drinks still don’t cut it for me, although I’ve had two whisky-based drinks recently that oddly enough I enjoyed.
  • Balanced life. If anything, due to my schedule and being left alone most of the year, I’m probably worse off right now than I was this time last year. Funny thing about being left all alone is that eventually I just get used to it and even though I might crave company and socializing, the moment I get it a sense of resentment at interrupting my solitude and my "do what I want, when I want" enters the picture. It’s very strange and I don’t appreciate it. I did learn a few new places around me, but not in the areas I’d hoped to explore, which I still haven’t explored in any fashion whatsoever. Maybe in ’13…
  • Sports. Ha! I still hate sports. I had planned on at least following the local NFL team, the Jaguars but holy crap they’ve had such a lousy season, mostly phoning it in except for what, two efforts which had some excitement? I just couldn’t be bothered other than checking the Jags official app weekly or so to see how badly they lost. I think what most of us are hoping is that for next season some contracts are non-renewed. We still have some dead weight players and some prima donnas who either do not, can not or will not pull their weight. But hey, it’s winter and snowboarding season has started and the X-Games are next month so that’ll be good!
  • Relationship. In terms of our overall relationship, affection, growing as a couple, 2012 was a good year. Spending time together, however, was not in the cards anywhere near as much as either of would have liked, as implied in the "Balanced life" bullet point. My schedule was pretty rough most of the year and often I was home when she was traveling for work or to care for her mother. Her condo was recently sold so she’s in emergency "find a place to live" mode right now and I’m hoping she gets a place closer to my condo so we can see each other more often during the times we’re both home together. I have no plans on moving or buying a bigger place the two of us can share until I find out if I’m able to get a new job or not.

Gaming Resolutions:

I didn’t do this last year, but this year’s should be simple enough.

  • Stop buying so many games! In theory, this should be easy in 2013. The current console generation is winding down and now that the big fall season of weekly AAA releases has passed, I can stop looking forward to the next releases and instead focus on actually playing and completing the 70+ Xbox 360 games I own.
  • Try to get back into MMOs, at least a little. Last year I was pretty heavy into Star Trek Online and it’s still my favorite but doing the same dailies every day for the 8K Dilithium limit per day finally burned me out. I’ve been in-game the past week for the Winter Wonderland and it’s been fun and the game still has a nice community for the most part and plenty of players at any given time of day which is important to me with my unorthodox schedule. Guild Wars 2 turned me off almost immediately but maybe sometime in 2013 I’ll be willing to patch it up and give it a fair chance. The Secret World is one that I did really enjoy in terms of setting and storytelling but it’s a difficult game to solo and there were never any players to group with during my normal play times. Now that TSW has adopted the "Buy2Play" model (please work on shifting Age of Conan to that this year too, Funcom?) the couple times I’ve logged in, I’ve seen launch week quantities of players running around so hopefully that will continue.
  • Prestige at least once! Much as I’ve griped about Call of Duty games, Black Ops II is my favorite multiplayer game right now. I got to level 50 (out of 55) pretty quickly before new games like Far Cry 3 took me away but I’m in a bit of a quandary: do I get 55 and Prestige immediately or do I get to 55 then hang out and get a bunch of Golden Guns before Prestiging?

2012 Resolutions

I was probably supposed to make these either in December or at least at the very beginning of this month, eh? Ever the contrarian, I’m doing it now. I was seriously considering doing this on one of my other blogs which are 100% non-gaming related, but ya know what? This is my blog, and my byline is "Me, My Virtual Self, and I." Only one of the three imply games, therefore the majority me wins!

  • This year I would like to make a leap of faith and get laser eye surgery. I’m beyond sick to death of wearing eyeglasses. I have to jump through all sorts of hoops for the FAA, but that’s ok. It’s an investment in myself.
  • One way or another, I will learn about finances and investment this year. I’ve been saying this for a number of years now. The time for talk is over. I have no investments other than my 401(k) which I have no clue what I’m doing with. Entirely too much money in the bank that is not "working for me" earning more. I may have to come up with a "game-like" methodology to make it fun and keep me coming back, but this must be done, no ifs, ands or buts.
  • I want to educate myself about wine. Liquor, too, so that I have a more well-rounded repertoire of mixed drinks when I go out to a bar, but wine is more socially accepted and sophisticated. I’ve pretty much given up ever being able to tolerate a beer, and honestly that’s fine.
  • I want to get back to being more fashionable. I’ve gone several years now of jeans and tee-shirts, and it’s all fine and good to dress down sometimes when I’m home after having to wear shirt and tie at work, but I take it to extreme sometimes. Here’s where the finances and investments come in, making that money earn more money so I can afford a closet of upscale clothes to balance my downscale ones. :p
  • I absolutely need to be more balanced and well-rounded in life. Work has also become my extremely limited social life, and that is unacceptable. So, in the interest of changing myself for the better, the agenda will be:
    • Keep better track of news and events, starting locally and working out to state, national and global. I’m terrible about staying up on any news, especially local, and then retaining that knowledge and learning from it.
    • Explore my local area more. Since I’m not home much and dedicate too much time to my hobby (again, unbalanced) when I am, I’ve barely explored anything beyond the couple areas I typically shop, etc. There are plenty of cool things that come up on maps or Google or local social sites and newspapers and it’s a shame I take the area for granted and don’t enjoy it.
    • Sports. I pretty much hate watching your typical American sport. But, my goal is to pick one sport, maybe one team for that sport, and make an attempt to give a crap. I do like watching snowboarding and certain skiing but those are X-Games, but we’ll see. The only guarantee I can make is that I will not be following America’s highest-paying work-release program the NBA. :p
  • Saving the biggest for last: I’m ready to move my relationship to whatever the next level might entail. We’ve been extremely averse to the M-word, but we’ll see. Even if we never do the M, I’m not opposed to getting engaged. Or something. Living together isn’t going to happen unless I get a house or a bigger condo, though. 2011 saw both our schedules extremely busy and for awhile it seemed we were spinning our wheels only being able to see each other briefly maybe two or three times a month, meeting for dinner or whatever. We’ve gotten even closer recently, though, and not only do I not want to lose that by backsliding into last year’s behavior (whether that was by choice or not – hint: it wasn’t) but I want to keep the relationship moving forward, whatever that ends up meaning for us. :) Love ya, babe!

Happy New Year

So, here we are ending 2011. Seems that a lot (or maybe just a little) has changed over this past year within the circle of bloggers and gamers I interact with, but generally I’ve seen a degree of movement toward being more positive in their outlook on the games or type of games they play. Ironically, I just saw a couple of them on Twitter yesterday complaining how negative so many are getting, full of complaints, shouting, whining, you name it. Apparently I don’t follow those people, and that’s fine by me.

I’m sure everyone who still reads this has noticed my marked neglect of Pumping Irony this year. I just didn’t feel it, for the most part. I had a lot of fun writing about Champions Online‘s first Comic Series, though my glass cannon character got stuck (and still is) on the final fight. The draft post is still sitting there since July waiting for me to finish it, meanwhile Cryptic has the second Comic Series currently running. For the most part, I’ve damn near given up on MMOs, and what’s left of my readership are primarily MMO Gamers. Right now the exception is Star Trek Online but the catch is, MMO or not, I don’t play that like an MMO. Other than that, I’ve mostly gaming on the Xbox 360, which has become my preferred platform for everything except MMOs for now.

The Blog

[This is the "glass is half empty" paragraph] That leaves me in a predicament. I’m barely playing MMOs and when I do, I’m still not bothering to write MMO blog posts. I’m mostly active these days on Google+ where everyone who’s moved there too has been far more accepting of my non-MMO and non-gaming interests. I’m still deciding, but don’t be shocked if I just pull the plug on Pumping Irony. I know one of the top rules for writing is "write for yourself," but this is a blog, not literature. If I get the interaction I seek elsewhere – in this case, Google+ – then elsewhere gets my focus.

[Now for the "glass is half full" treatment] However, I’ve also made a pact with myself to write more in 2012. I have Pumping Irony, and I have a few other blogs that have nothing to do with gaming at all. I’ve neglected all of them, so one way or another I’ve promised myself to take time to write on at least one of them, and to finally pick up writing fiction again. So, in one form or another, I expect more writing out of  myself next year even if it’s in a location you gamer-only readers never see. I enjoy the creativity involved in putting words to paper pixel, the behind-the-scenes research, and hopefully learning new additions to my vocabulary.

What I’ve Been Doing

Other than the aforementioned Star Trek Online, as I said I’ve mostly been on the Xbox 360. But what fantastic games came out this year! The past few months (and upcoming few still) was an onslaught of AAA titles that are well-deserving of anyone’s hard-earned cash.

Role Playing:

Skyrim. Obviously the big recent RPG was Bethesda’s Skyrim. Finally, Bethesda made a game that gets it right for me. Oblivion was a chore for me to slog through a few months ago, but I did it mostly out of spite. With Skyrim, on the other hand, I finally "got" what people say about Bethesda’s games being mostly about the exploration. Oblivion was bland – nearly every environment looked identical and the same music always played. In Skyrim, everywhere I go has its own unique appearance and music. The dungeons are more varied, even though I can still spot individual 3D "tiles" (a 2D description, but you know what I mean) being re-used for dungeon construction. And something very important for me, finally a third-person view that is functional and playable! First-person melee is horrid and bland, and honestly I don’t see it improving, so putting me in a third-person camera where I can see moves that cannot be accomplished from first-person keeps the combat interesting for me.

Fallout 3. As much as I’m enjoying Skyrim, it has caused me to get an interest in finishing Fallout 3, which I last played in May, 2009. I was level 16 at the time, but I had botched a few achievements. Similar to how I played Oblivion, my goal with Fallout 3 is to finish the game (and DLC) with 100% achievements. So I deleted my previous game and started over. This time around, I still can’t say the exploration is all that exciting or interesting, but achievement-wise (which equates to quest-wise) I’ve already surpassed where I left off two years ago, but am also only level 13. I’m not spreading my points all over the place this time, mostly concentrating on small weapons and other skills that will specifically get me through the game. Which is fine, because that’s also how I prefer to play this character. Unless he gets really bad die rolls, he is far more deadly at level 13 than my former level 16 character was. And being able to quickly and violently kill the Wasteland baddies makes me smile and even laugh, which perhaps makes up for the game itself not being all that fun (from a pure "fun" perspective).

Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga. I started DKS a few months ago, and got to the point where I could become a dragon and took control of my own Battle Tower. Then other games took my attention, but I plan to get back to it as soon as possible. It’s a really good RPG with some great action moves and a lot of diversity in its freedom to create characters. I don’t often play ranged characters in RPGs (MMOs maybe but not in real RPGs) but I am in DKS and it’s a blast. Some of the higher-tier abilities are just awesome to behold, and I’ve enjoyed the story so far.

Shooters:

Battlefield 3. This is my new go-to shooter. I can’t say I’m 100% satisfied with it, especially some of the maps like Operation Metro that seem like more of a nod towards the Call of Duty style of gameplay, but when I’m playing on a _real_ Battlefield map, I get that _real_ Battlefield feel again.

Gears of War 3. I’ve always like the campaigns in the Gears of War series but I’ve never been a fan of the multiplayer, which I tend to describe as "shoulder rolling with shotguns." I’m just not that good at it, and because it is built around small teams (5v5) that makes me more of a liability to my team, so in Gears 1 and 2 I mostly chose to just avoid multiplayer altogether. Gears 3 is no exception – I’m still avoiding the competitive multiplayer – but with four-player co-op, Horde 2.0 and the new Beast game modes, there is so much variety with Gears of War 3 that I’ll probably give this one my vote for best value overall.

Modern Warfare 3. I own it. I finished the campaign, which was fun (for me, the best part of any Call of Duty) and finished up the series’ storyline. Multiplayer is horrible, though. As much as Black Ops multiplayer pissed me off last year, I gradually learned to at least tolerate it and would often play it even without friends. MW3 has caused me to violently rage-quit almost every single match, though. COD games have always been hyper-fast and hyper-twitchy, but MW3 seems to have finally crossed some invisible line in the sand that pushes it over the edge for me. It’s just not fun, and I do not enjoy dying, watching the killcam and seeing the guy didn’t even hit me, respawning and dying again before I can count to 5. I also don’t enjoy when I kill someone when I never hit him either. It’s sad when the COD franchise is a license to print money yet the multiplayer experience actually degrades with each iteration. In a related note, I did finally start the Black Ops campaign recently, and I’m about halfway through it. Since I only played multiplayer this past year, I had no idea whatsoever the game was set in the 1960s. Strange, but it seems to have put a slight damper on whatever semblance of positivity I felt towards the game.

Other:

Saints Row the Third. Over the top craziness in an open world. Where the GTA series went all serious on us, the SR series relishes in its zaniness. I’m not finished with the campaign yet, but think I’m getting close. The co-op is a lot of fun, though it’s a shame it still only accommodates two players. Like Gears of War 3, this one has been enough fun that I went ahead and bought the Season Pass which discounts all upcoming mission DLC.

Forza Motorsports 4. I’m not usually into racing games, especially the more sim-like ones that lock me onto the track, but Forza 4 has been quite enjoyable on a casual basis. I also picked up Test Drive Unlimited 2 which is a sorta-kinda MMO (they refer to it as a MOOR – Massively Open Online Racing) game.

Also plenty of other 360 and XBLA games have been in my roster, with more to come. I’ll try to do a better job of writing about them as we enter the new year!

Encouraging Conflict for Creativity

I was driving to work last week listening to Hair Nation (shush, just shush!) and the DJ mentioned that a hoped-for Dokken reunion fell through, with vocalist Don Dokken being the holdout. The other three original band members formed their own group called Tooth and Nail (also the title of Dokken’s 1984 album) and their first album is titled Dump the Chump. While I’m curious to see what Lynch, Pilson and Brown put together, it’s a shame to see one of my favorite 80’s bands still behaving like babies 25 years later. They’re all in their 50’s, Don being the oldest at 58. [Editing note: here we see a double-standard on my part, since one of my signature lines since high school, and one that I still live by today, is “Age is a state of mind.”] “Dump the Chump?” Really? Even back in the 80’s there were plenty of stories about their in-fighting. But you know what? Listen to the music and the performances, and I think that conflict is part of what made the songs so good. Everything had more “bite” to it, and I’ve always felt some of the internal conflict with the band also led to some of their best creativity and performances – when it was kept at a controlled level. Get out of control, as rock stars are prone to do, and you get antics like Guns ‘n Roses destroying hotels and urinating in the aisle on airplanes.

The first band that made me consider the value of conflict was Van Halen. Listening to the songs from the original lineup with David Lee Roth and you can again hear the music had more “bite” than it did after Diamond Dave left the group. Eddie’s guitar sound was certainly more raw and his soloing (and his overplaying and “noodling” as he called it) was more off-the-cuff, almost as if he was channeling his frustrations into a creative outlet. Again, plenty of stories over the DLR years of in-fighting. Once Sammy Hagar entered the picture, I got the impression Eddie was more confident as leader of the band and more into composing and arranging his music. The early years with Sammy was one big happy party with everyone getting along, and while they certainly did put out some great songs in the “Van Hagar” years, there was also something missing. The “bite” was gone.

Shifting forward in time, one example of a lack of conflict doing more harm than good was my appearance in Episode #30 of the Shut Up, We’re Talking! podcast. While I never thought the show was “bad” by any means, it was at the time the lowest-rated episode (and highest number of comments, if I recall) simply because there was no conflict at all between the guests. None. Nada. Zero. Zip. Zilch. I’m sure it was just purely coincidence, but every topic on the agenda Darren, Karen, John and myself all agreed upon. There wasn’t even the hint of a dissenting opinion, not even for the sake of playing Devil’s Advocate. The listener’s didn’t like it. And I have no choice to agree. I personally will not listen to a podcast with only one host, because there is no discussion and therefore no liveliness and no source for conflict to generate creativity. Even with podcasts with multiple hosts, I tend to not enjoy shows where all the hosts share the same background in whatever the topic is about (usually gaming). I’ve said before that in MMOs I personally prefer to be in guilds with a varied roster of personalities, not just a bunch of “gamer dudes” always having the same “gamer dude” discussions. Give me some non-gamers, some housewives, some CEO’s, some MMA fighters, anything but people who mimic my own background or interests. Similarly, I rank podcasts higher when hosts include both males and females. That discourse alone is plenty of entertainment value because you’re guaranteed to have different backgrounds influencing their opinions and preferences.

Paul (Oakstout) has brought up a few times recently that he thinks a gaming-oriented podcast hosted by himself, Aaron and me would be a good idea. I always burst into laughter, saying he just wants my blog bombed with hate mail when people hear me vocalizing just how opinionated I am. :grin: But he says he thinks it’s interesting because while the three of us often enjoy the same (or at least similar) games, nearly 100% of the time we enjoy them for completely different reasons and don’t always see eye-to-eye on the others’ preferences. For my two cents, while I have had some creative (and silly) ideas for podcasts before, there is no way I’m going to be co-hosting with my little punk-ass voice up against Mr. Guitarist/Songwriter Aaron and his deep babe-magnet voice. Yes, I am precisely that shallow! Not to mention, as stated above in my own personal listening preferences, it would be three dudes being dudes. An aural sausage-fest. That is not something I’d want to listen to, much less take the time to record, edit, and produce. Harry Potter wouldn’t have been as special if it were “The Adventures of Ron and Harry,” now would it? The addition of Hermione and her perspective was what solidified them as friends and an interesting band of adventurers. A few dudes waggling their wands is just that – it takes a woman to turn it into magic

Still Alive

Sorry for the lack of updates the past couple weeks. I was very busy with work since I had vacation coming up and haven’t been taking my laptop either, so no gaming on the overnights.

Vacation ended up being more impromptu than we like, but it worked out fine.

Plan A was an Alaska cruise. I had an interline discount for a seven night cruise with an outside cabin for $300! Unfortunately, it required more time than I had for vacation when you count traveling to Anchorage, starting the cruise in Seward then getting home from Vancouver. We needed two more days off than I had. Maybe next time.

Plan B was flying to San Juan for a Caribbean cruise that hit all (or most) of the Virgin Islands. Unfortunately, that cruise ran the week prior to my vacation, then is running this week, but not during the week I had off.

Plan C was skipping the cruise and just going to a resort in the Caribbean. Destinations to choose from were Aruba, Grand Cayman or one of the Virgin Islands (St. Martin or St. Thomas). I ended up picking Grand Cayman since we’d spent a few hours there on a cruise excursion a few years ago.

If anyone’s interested, I can write about the trip and the island later. Getting ready to start a trip in a bit so no time to go into it now. Just wanted to check in and let my couple readers know I’m still out here.

Menu Setting Fail

Average Battery Life for Kindle 3 with Wireless OFF: approximately 30 days.

Average Battery Life for Kindle 3 with Wireless ON: approximately 10 days.

Average Battery Life for Kindle 3 when you fly around with Wireless ON (thought it was off…) and it’s trying to get a signal the whole time: approximately 3.5 days…

/sigh

 

The Decline of Western Civilization

I’ve been lucky so far this year, being off during the winter storms so far, but my luck ran out this week. My overnight was canceled and my First Officer and I ended up being sent to Dayton, OH for the night and so far today isn’t looking good for rejoining our scheduled trip as planned.

I stepped outside and there was perhaps two inches of snow on the ground. Schools are canceled en masse. I grew up about 30 miles southwest of here and back then, two inches was barely even a “light dusting.” We didn’t cancel school until there was six on the ground and more forecast that day.

Is it just me, or have each new generation of Americans become more carebear than the last? A few more generations and the North Koreans can just waltz in and take over the country without a fight, because the kids can’t be bothered going outside in the rain…

Oh, and you whippersnappers get off my lawn.

Impulse Purchase

Here’s a great example of how impulsive I can be sometimes. I’m sure my girlfriend wishes I was more impulsive in other areas of my life and less so with hobbies, but hey, take what you can get, eh?

In perfect timing after my previous post, Ventrilo came out with a new client version yesterday. One of the patch notes mentioned compatibility with the Logitech G950 headset. Turns out that bad boy is a wireless 7.1 headset made of pure awesome so I clicked over to Amazon and added it to my cart. Then I noticed the new (?) G19 keyboard. I already have the backlit, programmable Microsoft keyboard but the G19 has a color LCD mini-screen! OMG! Added that to the cart as well.

$340 all thanks to a single Ventrilo patch note…

Plantronics Has Tiny Heads

I always thought I had a small-ish head until trying a few Plantronics headsets. My current model is their 995H wireless. Sounds fine, though I think it’s only stereo. But it has tiny earcups which only an infants’ ears could fit inside and the band itself is molded in a fashion that squeezes my head like a vice.

I bought the GameCom 777 (Plantronics “cool” name for their gaming division headsets) last week, which was supposed to be a 7.1 headset, but I could never get it to do anything other than standard stereo. No drivers whatsoever exist for the thing, just Windows default. Nice comfortable earcups, but once again the band squeezes my head so tight it feels like it’s about to pop. So it was boxed back up and returned yesterday.

Normally I use a “three strikes and you’re out” rule for nearly everything in life. Plantronics and their headsets for tiny heads are at two strikes now, but I’m going to call the out ahead of time, given the expense and inconvenience involved.

I would really like a new comfortable gaming headset, preferably 5.1 or 7.1, that works correctly on Windows 7 64-bit. Wireless would be ideal but I can deal with wired. I am currently debating either a Turtle Beach (I have the X41 for my 360 and it is phenomenal), the new Logitech G35 or the Razor Megalodon. All of which, I think, are wired. :sad:

Suggestions?